Tasteful and elegant are often bandied when talking about Anteprima. They’ve held on to the same aesthetic position since the mid-Nineties when the brand emerged in the wake of the rising tide of Italian fashion. More sort-after for their bags than their clothes, Anteprima has, in fact, propelled both to attain global visibility despite consumers’ increasing fondness for brash luxury. This is remarkable when, in today’s social media-led maelstrom that is fashion, so many labels are spotlighting their presence by approaching design as if there are Christmas trees to be decorated.
The reality is, elegance has been redefined by agglomerates of prestigious brands and re-represented by American pop stars with a penchant for extreme stages of undress. Ostentation is the new norm. Yet, Anteprima does not seem concerned by these shifts in a dismally massified society. They continue to produce elegance-infused clothes that are stripped of the voice to shout. These are quiet styles for women whose existence is marked by subtlety and whose wardrobe shuns gregarious colours. It has been pointed out that Anteprima treads the path paved by Italian vanguards of classics such as Max Mara, but the former’s timeless, practical, and versatile clothes have always been tempered by the light-heartedness of their accessories, in particular, the bags.
Unsurprisingly, the bags were the highlight at the opening of the new Anteprima store last Friday. It was recently relocated from the first to the second level of the Paragon, and in time to launch the autumn/winter 2014 collection with a ready-to-wear line that deserves more attention than it is likely to get. As usual, it keeps the under in understatement firmly in place, all the while clearly articulating refinement and superlative tailoring. These are not clothes for fashion peacocks, and fans of the label are happy the exhibitionists show no interest.
Anteprima was founded in 1993 by Japanese Izumi Ogino, a true global nomad even before globalism’s style-shifting role arrived to define 20th century fashion. Conceived in Hong Kong, inspired by Tokyo, and produced in Milan, Anteprima has a cross-cultural aesthetic despite its European leanings. Ms Ogino herself is a walking embodiment of her label’s carefully calibrated chic. Even with early success of its leather goods, it would take its Wirebag to place the brand among luxury good’s biggest names.
The Wirebag brings to mind Pleats Please’s Bao Bao bag. There are, of course, no aesthetic similarities between the two, but both have yielded expanded product lines based on one original idea. The Wirebag’s genesis can be traced to Anteprima’s parent company, Hong Kong’s Fenix Group, which started as (and still is) a knitwear manufacturer, and now mostly known among locals as the operator of City Super, a high-end provisions supplier. Exploiting Fenix’s knitting know-how, Ms Ogino created a new-look bag by using materials never considered before.
As the story goes, the designer was in Italy when she came across wire cords used for making spectacle straps. Inspiration, as is often noted, can strike when encountering the most unlikely objects. She brought them back to Hong Kong and had the new material knitted into bags, but apparently no one in the company thought them to be attractive. Rather than cast aside the trial pieces, Ms Ogino decided to display them in one of the Anteprima stores for a test sale. In 1998, the Wirebag was born.
The fact that it did not die a premature death shows how well received those early ones were. The result was not only surprising; it soon allowed the Wirebag to take a mantel reserved for the iconic. In the beginning, the bags were sold with other Anteprima merchandise under the brand Plastiq (which, as we write this, reminds us of the ’80s Japanese New Wave band The Plastics: fun and irreverent. It’s not unimaginable that lead singer Chica Sato personifies these bags!). Unfortunately, a Plastiq bag has other connotation, and, in 2009, a name change was effected.
Just as with the Bao Bao bag, the Wirebag has evolved beyond its original forms—reticule-like carriers—to a staggering range that now includes totes and handbags with amazingly intricate knit work and unexpected colour play. Although not made of valuable materials, the Wirebag can look precious, and, as with so many things linked to Japanese aesthetic preferences, playful too. Bags in the form of a panda or Hello Kitty may now not be contrivances to sing about, but they do reveal many women’s fondness for outwardly cuteness, rather than containing function.
Anteprima is on level 2, Paragon